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New Mesh Coating Makes Oil Spill Cleanup Easy

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May 14, 2014 03:01 PM EDT
Oil Spill
Researcher have developed a new oil-repellant coating that should make straining oil from water significantly easier, compared to the current methods. This is great news for environmentalists and oil companies alike, both of whom wish to avoid the various impacts of an off-shore oil spill. (Photo : Flickr: DVIDSHUB)

Researchers have developed a new oil-repellant coating that should make straining oil from water significantly easier, compared to the current methods. This is great news for environmentalists and oil companies alike, both of whom wish to avoid the various impacts of an off-shore oil spill.

A study published in the American Chemical Society's (ACS) Applied Materials & Interfaces details how researchers managed to improve on existing "smart" coatings - such as oleophobic-hydrophilic coatings - designed to repel dirt from objects that should be kept clean.

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Most of these commercially available coatings, while useful in domestic application, are not very good at repelling oil, and can take up to several minutes to achieve complete separation, the researchers explained in an ACS press release.

However, an improved olephobic-hydrophilic coating developed specifically for separating oil from water has proven instantaneously effective. Initial testing involved coating fine metal mesh with the newly designed solution. Observational data revealed that when an oil-water mixture was poured through the mesh, the water easily slipped through while oil congealed on the center of the mesh, creating an easily disposable blob of the harmful waste.

According to the ACS, self-cleaning meshing coated with the researchers' solution could make off-shore oil spills and even ground-water contamination from fracking easily amended situations.

Current oil spill cleaning techniques can be messy and are not nearly as effective. Oil spills such as the Athos 1 spill on the Delaware river were tackled using a combination of skimming and chemical dispersants, according to the University of Delaware. Other techniques involve the use of absorbents like clay to sap up the oil. Unfortunately, these objects sap up a great deal of water too, requiring massive quantities of the material to do any good.

Experts say that the improved olephobic-hydrophilic coating could contain and even clean up an oil spill bloom quickly - saving time, money, and especially the environment.

The study was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces on May 13.

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